Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, August 8th, 2016.

Resist the Return to Normalcy

Democratic Party

As much fun as it is to ridicule Republicans, I want to take a look at the Democrats today.  Daniel O’Hehir wrote something several days ago, during the Dem convention, that I want to quote —

This year’s DNC, culminating in the triumphant coronation of Hillary Clinton on Thursday night and her highly effective acceptance speech, hecklers and all, was a great victory for normal people. Whether or not that’s a good thing, in a country where the normal has become pathological and the pathological normal, is open for debate.

Normal people were all around me on the walk back to the subway station: Polite, practical-minded people with college degrees and good jobs; people who were well-dressed but not ostentatiously dressed. Most but not all were homeowners, most but not all were moms and dads. Most lived in large-ish cities or middle-sized cities or the kinds of inner suburban towns that have actual bookstores and actual coffee shops. Of course I’m guessing about those demographics, but I’m right. They were “diverse,” in the usual Democratic Party check-the-boxes way, in that quite a few were not white and quite a few were not straight and the ratio of female to male was about even. But there was a certain conformity in effect nonetheless — a conformity of spirit, or of vibe — and if you claim not to know what I’m talking about you’re kidding yourself. They were normal. They were pleasant. They were Democrats.

I suppose there’s nothing wrong with normal, but there’s also clinging to a fiction of normal when reality is not normal. A lot of Democrats are not seeing beyond the November election. To them, as long as Hillary wins, everything will be right as rain. The sun will shine; the bells will ring. For me, trying to relate to “normal” Democrats these days makes me feel like Wednesday Addams.

The two major factions more or less interacting within what we might loosely call Democratic Party politics are partisan party believers (the Girl Scouts) and progressives/lefties who no longer trust the party but who, because Trump, mostly will vote for Hillary Clinton anyway (Wednesday and Pugsley). For the former, nothing matters except electing Hillary Clinton. What we’re going through now is just normal politics.  For the latter, nothing is normal, and the Revolution is just beginning.

Not a factor: Former Bernie supporters who are running off to join the Greens.  Jill Stein is polling at 2 percent today. They’re big on social media but not having an impact on real world politics, apparently.

Conor Lynch wrote that the infighting between Clinton and Sanders supporters will shape the future of the Democratic Party:

In a nutshell, the former are predominately Democratic partisans who subscribe to a binary way of thinking about politics (e.g., Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal), while the latter tend to be progressives who champion principles over party and reject partisan narratives. At the convention, the former rolled their eyes and shook their heads in disgust whenever the latter booed or chanted (nothing irks Democratic partisans quite like rudeness), and were attending for their candidate and their party. The latter, who showed up with pro-Palestinian rights and anti-TPP signs, attended the convention for their candidate, but more importantly, for their movement.

Conor Lynch cited this article by Ben Bruce Shapiro:

Elected officials, even the best and most principled, operate within the parameters of possibility that they discern in their constituency. In that sense, elected officials—and American presidents most of all—are the end of the political digestive system. Electoral politics is usually the last place change gets felt. Even a sympathetic, justice-minded president is only likely to speed reform when backed by a powerful grassroots campaign, as Lyndon Johnson did with the Civil Rights Act and Barack Obama did with marriage equality. …

… Movement politics, on the other hand, is about reshaping and redefining those parameters. Moving the goalposts. It’s not only cynicism that has moved Hillary Rodham Clinton to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and embrace a vice-presidential candidate who is far to the left of the Bill Clinton legacy on most issues. It’s her awareness—too slow to dawn, perhaps, but awareness nonetheless—that after a generation of free-trade bills and Wall Street deregulation and prison expansion, the terms of debate have changed. Thank you, Bernie.

When Bernie Sanders says the revolution continues, this is what he means. His campaign—movement politics in the guise of a primary run—has changed the terms of debate, and done so with more success than many of us who voted for him expected. Look—the previous high-water mark for a socialist in American politics was Eugene V. Debs, winning 1 million votes from jail during World War I. Sanders has won 12 million. That is historic. And the argument Sanders pushed—both within the Democratic Party and beyond it—does not end tonight or on Election Day.

Whether Clinton won’t flipflop back to supporting TPP remains to be seen, and whether Tim Kaine really is to the Left of the Clinton legacy is arguable, but let’s go on …

Those dropping out of the Sanders movement in favor of the Green Party are right about one thing — the two-party system is not serving us well. Neither party is in touch with the real needs of most U.S. citizens any more.  I don’t personally call the primaries “rigged,” but there’s no question Dem Party insiders managed the primaries to favor Clinton’s nomination.

Going back to O’Hehir:

… the Democrats have doubled down on normal. They have defeated or absorbed the defiantly non-normal left-wing opposition, at least for the moment, and driven the renegades out of the tent. Now they are ready to stand together, in nice pants, and save whatever can be saved of the American republic. They have built the last fortress of what Jeb Bush plaintively described last winter as “regular-order democracy,” a Minas Tirith of whole-grain wholesomeness, standing alone against the Dark Lord.

If Hillary Clinton herself has spent too long in the enclaves of power and privilege to qualify as fully normal, she remains normal-ish, a convincing simulacrum of the normal person she used to be. Clinton is not an orator in the Barack Obama class or a master showman like Donald Trump, but her speech on Thursday was well-crafted and well-modulated. She used the gendered perception that she is shrill or harsh or unlikable to her advantage, presenting herself as the unflappable adult administrator — the high school principal, writ large — prepared to make tough decisions while other people yell and lose their minds.

I’m not looking forward to the Clinton Administration. But the high school principal analogy makes me think of Ben Shapiro’s line about elected officials being at the end of the political digestive system. High school principals and elected officials are creatures of The System. They may be good at their jobs, or bad; they may hold positions you like, or not. But they tend to be too close to the system to see how it might be failing, and that’s especially true of those who’ve been in it for a long time.

And Clinton supporters and “normal” Democrats on the whole don’t seem able to see the systemic problems, either, or that the peasants are revolting. Recently Ron Brownstein wrote in the Atlantic that Clinton is having a problem winning Millennials.

… even though roughly three-fourths of all battleground-state Millennials expressed these disparaging views of Trump, the survey found Clinton drawing just 43 percent against him in a four-way race that included libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. While Trump attracted only 24 percent, nearly as many picked Johnson or Stein, and the rest said they were either undecided or wouldn’t vote. By comparison, Obama carried two-thirds of Millennials in 2008 and three-fifths in 2012.

I ran this by some “normal” Democrats of my aquaintance, and it was pooh-poohed. Clinton doesn’t have a problem with Millennials! More of them will be voting for her than for Trump! That’s all they see. And Ross Perot attracted a lot of younger voters in 1992, and Bill Clinton won anyway! Hoorah for us!

You might remember that “Return to Normalcy” was Warren G. Harding’s election slogan in 1920.  Normalcy was fun for some people, for awhile, but didn’t last. What is “normalcy,” anyway?

I still expect Clinton to be elected in November. It’s not going to be a normal four years, if I have anything to say about it.

Share Button